Logically Equivalent False Universal Propositions with Different Counterexample Sets.

Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 11:554-5 (2007)
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Abstract

This paper corrects a mistake I saw students make but I have yet to see in print. The mistake is thinking that logically equivalent propositions have the same counterexamples—always. Of course, it is often the case that logically equivalent propositions have the same counterexamples: “every number that is prime is odd” has the same counterexamples as “every number that is not odd is not prime”. The set of numbers satisfying “prime but not odd” is the same as the set of numbers satisfying “not odd but not not-prime”. The mistake is thinking that every two logically-equivalent false universal propositions have the same counterexamples. Only false universal propositions have counterexamples. A counterexample for “every two logically-equivalent false universal propositions have the same counterexamples” is two logically-equivalent false universal propositions not having the same counterexamples. The following counterexample arose naturally in my sophomore deductive logic course in a discussion of inner and outer converses. “Every even number precedes every odd number” is counterexemplified only by even numbers, whereas its equivalent “Every odd number is preceded by every even number” is counterexemplified only by odd numbers. Please let me know if you see this mistake in print. Also let me know if you have seen these points discussed before. I learned them in my own course: talk about learning by teaching!

Author's Profile

John Corcoran
PhD: Johns Hopkins University; Last affiliation: University at Buffalo

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